Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pursuing Your Bad Ideas

We all have bad ideas. Most often we're completely ignorant when our ideas suck, but occasionally we're perfectly aware of it.

You already know I'm going to say to pursue your bad ideas anyway. It's easier said than done, though -- a fact I've recently had to learn when I came up with a bad idea.

The most obvious reason to pursue a bad idea is it might end up being a great idea. For instance, I'm a big fan of The Night Circus. In an interview with the author, Erin Morgenstern said she started writing it without knowing a lot of the "rules," such as not to write in second person, ever. Her use of second person is superb! The book would not be the same without it and I'm grateful no one was there to tell her it was a bad idea.

We could swap stories about bad ideas turned amazing all day long. What I want to say is that sometimes when an idea feels bad, we don't realize our minds are in the process of building something great that makes perfect sense. We just can't see it yet.

The best example I can think of is with my current novel VOODOO QUEEN. I originally had a mass of narrators (and finally narrowed it down to one, but that's a different story). When I tried to tell the story of Marie's grandmother, I kept wanting to tell it from her owner's point of view and not from her own.

That doesn't make sense. Why would we want to hear from a slave owner instead of the slave? He was a horrible person.

The story wouldn't come into my head any other way, so I wrote it how it wanted to be written. Months later when I decided to only have one narrator, a brilliant idea occurred to me that I must have known all along; the best way to tell the grandmother's story was through visions from people who had passed on. The slave owner -- who has always been madly in love with her -- tells Marie his story through dreams that reveal all of the grandmother's secrets. I didn't have to make any changes to the story because it was already written from the owner's point of view.

I've seen too many people come up with ideas that seem bad, so they try to "fix" them... which only makes the ideas worse. It's much better to let an idea unfold the way it wants to. Perhaps when you catch the vision of what your mind is trying to create, you'll step back and say, "Wow. That wasn't such a bad idea after all."


  1. Okay so maybe this is a bit off topic, but do you think that if you have a brilliant idea but you don't put in much effort in your first draft because you know you'll edit it later will make a good story?
    Sometimes I leave things as they are in my first draft that need heavy editting. Am I making a mistake?

    1. Certainly not! People cripple themselves trying to write the "perfect" rough draft. The rough draft is supposed to be bad, and in the end, you'll probably look at what you've written and realize it's not nearly as bad as you thought. Just do what sounds right in your head as fast as you can, then take your time perfecting what you've done.


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